Pubdate: Wed, 08 Jun 2005
Source: Daily Breeze (CA)
Copyright: 2005 The Copley Press Inc.
Author: William F. Buckley, Jr.
Note: William F. Buckley Jr. is the founder of National Review magazine.
Cited: Gonzales v. Raich ( )
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)
Bookmark: (Opinion)
Bookmark: (Angel Raich)


Supreme Court ruling should satisfy critics -- the justices left it up
to Congress to change the law.

The Supreme Court did what conservative court-watchers should welcome.
It looked the California situation in the face and said: If Congress
doesn't like the law, let Congress change it, but don't look to the
Supreme Court to improvise on the drug laws.

There are now four collateral movements in the matter of the use of
medical marijuana where individual states have authorized it:

*Federal prosecutors are free, after this clarification from the
Supreme Court, to proceed to arrest users, on the grounds that the law
is the law.

*The plaintiffs in the current case were two ailing women. Having
lost with the Supreme Court, they have said that they intend to
continue to use marijuana. One of them said that, actually, she has no
alternative, because if she doesn't take the drug, she will simply

*Observers sympathetic to the state laws allowing marijuana for
medical purposes take comfort in realism. There aren't enough federal
prosecutors in town to move against all the users. One estimate is
that only 1 percent of such transgressions is actually meeting up with
intervention by the federal constabulary.

*In his opinion, Justice Stevens hinted that there were two ways to
address the deadlock. The first and most obvious, of course, is for
Congress to revise the current statute to make the exception for
medical marijuana. But there is another approach, namely for the
executive branch to reclassify marijuana for medical purposes.

How will these sentiments and inclinations fare?

The easiest way is to treat laws banning medical marijuana about as
anti-sodomy laws were treated for generations: Don't repeal them, but
don't act on them. There is a theoretical objection to this escapist
remedy: We like to think that laws are there to be obeyed.

The relief hinted at by Justice Stevens that might be got by the
executive branch's adjusting the proscribed list to permit medical
marijuana is opposed by the hard-liners in the administration.

What is depressing is the dim prospect of remedial congressional
action. Individual members of Congress shun the idea of licensing any
use of marijuana, unless they can find a way to say that marijuana
eliminates income disparity. But in search of political consensus on
the matter, there is nothing clearer than the vote of the legislatures
of the 11 states that authorized medical marijuana. If these states
can take a progressive position on medical marijuana, why can't
Congress do as much?

There is opposition to be sure from more sophisticated observers. What
they are saying is that the whole medical marijuana argument is
something of a phony. It is certainly true that a lot of people who
would like to use marijuana will go to lengths to feign a medical
reason for doing so.

But if a federal prosecutor is bent on practicing his profession, he
is in a position to establish that the doctor whose name the scofflaw
is citing as having prescribed marijuana didn't really do so, or did
so in such ambiguous terms as to persuade the jury that the marijuana
user is in contempt of the law. On this front, the permissivists have
an eloquent martyr, the late Peter McWilliams, who depended on
marijuana for relief from the nausea caused by AIDS -- and who died
under court scrutiny, pending sentencing, and had to do without the

Taking marijuana when young is a stupid thing to do, but the young
generation is not (yet) suffering from cancer and AIDS and other
diseases from the ravages of which they might find relief, if they can
dance through the congestion of laws and opinions that beset us.
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